Move over JUUL, psilocybin is the key to quitting smoking

Psilocybin, a compound which has shown promise in counteracting treatment-resistant depression, leads the charge in helping JUUL users and smokers alike quit for good, according to a paper from Johns Hopkins University.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say over seven million deaths worldwide are attributable to smoking each year, while the researchers at Johns Hopkins found the efficacy for “most behavioral interventions and pharmacotherapies for smoking cessation” was less than 35%.

And vaping devices like JUUL, falsely marketed as a smoking cessation device, may actually be more difficult to quit than cigarettes, but psilocybin is emergine as nicotine-free alternative with increased efficacy.

“Biomarkers assessing smoking status, and self-report measures of smoking
behavior demonstrated that 12 of 15 participants (80%) showed seven-day point prevalence abstinence at 6-month follow-up.”

The study gathered participants who smoked a minimum of 10 cigarettes daily, had attempted to quit multiple times and still wanted to quit.

The treatment was administered to patients in a controlled environment with one staff member present.

Participants were encouraged to lie down on a couch and were given eye masks while music played through headphones to encourage positive hallucinogenic effects.

Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques were also employed to maximize efficacy: Participants were instructed to synthesize their reasons for quitting into a motivational statement, a scented oil was used before sessions to evoke an olfactory response to cravings and guided imagery exercises were conducted during support meetings with staff and at the end of the first session.

The studies’ authors warn that the small sample size does not provide definitive conclusions about the causal role of psilocybin per se, but it does show “efficacy rates were higher than observed in studies utilizing similarly extensive CBT-based support.”

JUUL a problem for parents and regulators

The rise in popularity of flavoured vaping products like JUUL has meant nicotine use has seen a comeback in recent years, especially with teenagers.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse found “30.7 percent of e-cig users started smoking within 6 months while 8.1 percent of non users started smoking,” and nearly one in five high school students reported vaping in the past 30 days, according to The CDC.

JUUL, COMPASS PATHWAYS, smoking cessation, depression, clinical trials

But David Sweanor, an adjunct professor in the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, told the Ottawa Citizen that vaping products could drive e-cigarette users back towards cigarettes.

Australia’s ban on nicotine led to a thriving black market for nicotine salts, the fluid within e-cigarettes which creates the ‘vapor’, raising questions about how to deal with a pervasive issue.

COMPASS Pathways was granted breakthrough therapy status by the FDA for psilocybin in 2018, and the company is currently conducting a phase IIb trial for treatment-resistant depression.

The global smoking cessation and nicotine de-addiction products market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20.2%, increasing to USD$39.51B by 2023.


–Ethan Reyes

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